Gene Nichol: North Carolina’s disturber and prophet

19North Carolina has its own Old Testament prophet. Maybe you remember from Bible study those prophets who preached about the people’s responsibility to care for the poor.
Elijah stood up to the authority of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. (I Kings 18).

One of the most famous prophets is Micah, known for his oft-quoted direction to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). He also condemned those who mistreated the poor.

Jeremiah condemned those who “oppress the poor and needy and deprive them of justice.” (Jeremiah 22:3).

Amos condemned those who “trample on the poor and force them to give you grain.” (Amos 5:11).

In his new book, “Lessons from North Carolina: Race, Religion, Tribe, and the Future of America,” Gene Nichol takes on the role of North Carolina’s prophet. He writes about the abuses by those in power. He writes most eloquently about the poor and North Carolina’s exploitation and inattention to them, condemning ways the powerful oppress the powerless.

Nichol is a professor and former dean at the UNC Chapel Hill Law School. He served as law dean at the University of Colorado (1988-1995) and was president of the College of William & Mary (2005-2008). He served as the director of UNC’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity until it closed in 2015.

In Chapter 1, “Rejecting the American Promise, The Reembrace of Racial Supremacy,” Nichol attacks the actions of the state legislature for having “blown through” the barriers which had seemingly been set in stone. They included “the right to vote, majority rule, free and fair elections, freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws, unnecessary separation of powers, and an independent judiciary to keep the channels of democracy open and guarantee the rule of law.”

In Chapter 2, “Politics, Tribe and (Unchristian) Religion,” Nichol asserts that “the chasm between the political agenda of most white Christian evangelicals and the teachings of Jesus is wide — beyond wide.”

In Chapter 3, “Politics and Poverty,” Nichol, like the Old Testament prophets, points out that North Carolina has some of the developed world’s highest rates of poverty, child poverty and child hunger. He mourns that this terrible situation “triggers no meaningful, majority-sponsored, state anti-poverty initiatives.”

In Chapter 4, “Destroying a Priceless Gem,” Nichol details examples of intervention by political figures in the operation of the university, including closing of the Poverty Center at UNC Chapel Hill, which he had led, in retaliation for his critical newspaper articles.

In Chapter 5, “Movement vs. Partisan Politics,” Nichol opens with “It is no exaggeration to claim that, over the last dozen years, the North Carolina General Assembly has waged one of the stoutest wars launched by any American state in the past half century against poor people, people of color, the LGBTQ + community, public education, the environment, and even democracy itself.”

In Chapter 6, “The Limits of Law,” Nichol mourns the takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court by the “originalist adventurism” of former Justice Antonin Scalia and the current Supreme Court justices.
In his final chapter, Nichol addresses “Democracy, Equality, and the Future of America.” Speaking of the choices before the legislature, he writes “if they have to choose between white ascendancy and the Declaration of Independence’s commitment to the equal rights of humankind, then apparently, it’s an easy choice. Power, not democracy, is what matters.”

Like the prophets of old, Nichol stirs the pot. Maybe too much. Maybe not enough.

Falcon Children’s Home woodshop brings veterans, students together to learn skills, create art

15aPlaners, joiners, bandsaws, table saws, computer numerical control machines and Harley, the light-blond Golden Retriever, soak up every square inch of floor space. Boards of different types of wood lean stacked against the walls.

It’s drafty and loud. The smell of stained wood is pungent, but the whir of the machines is reassuring.

Intricate works of student art such as inlaid tables and plaques are strewn about, some completed, some in the process of being finished for a public showing at the Fayetteville Arts Council from May 4 to 20.

The woodshop is a world away from the grind of daily life for the kids at Falcon Children’s Home.
The program started in 2015 when he offered to teach a wood-working class, Head Instructor John DeGreef says.

Falcon Children’s Home liked the idea and at the end of a trial run wanted to make woodshop a high school elective. However, there was no money for equipment. And DeGreef couldn’t continue to trailer his personal tools to school for every class.

He says a friend suggested reaching out to the United Way for grant money. And during their first year, they gave $15,000. “That’s pretty much where we started,” DeGreef said.
After moving to its present location, gaining Woodturning Instructor Carl Sanders, CNC Instructor Derek Feely and state-of-the-art machinery that includes two CNC laser cutters, the program has become a crucial part of Falcon Children’s Home.

“Basically, seven years later,” DeGreef says, “We’re close to $180,000 raised through grants.”

All of the equipment in the shop was either purchased using grant monies or donated. In fact, Falcon Children’s Home relies on donations for everything from toilet paper to paying employees.
There are young people up to 21-years-old living in cottages on the grounds, Houseparent Magdeli Alexandra Lopez says. Right now, there are eight kids and two house parents per cottage.

There are a total of 13 cottages on campus, separated by gender. Each one can hold a maximum of 12 kids and two house parents. The children live there year-round.

“It’s a foster home,” DeGreef says. Kids come and live here until the court system deems it’s okay for them to go home.

This nearly windowless woodshop building, its power tools and stalwart instructors focus the kids’ minds around something positive and rewards them with lifelong skills.
Woodshop is a safe space for these young people.

“We don’t know why they’re here or what they’ve been through, and we don’t get in to that,” Feely says. “Our job is to make an escape for them.”

Foster care is a “protective service” for children who have been abused, neglected or maltreated, in which they’re given a family environment in an agency-approved home for a planned and temporary period of time.

“There’s about 90 [to] 95 kids that live [up here] full time,” DeGreef says.

Falcon Children’s Home has been “providing a home for children who ... are unable to live with their parents in a regular home setting for over 110 years.”15b
Lopez tells the students to treat woodshop like a real job, he says. It’s more therapeutic for them. Some of our children deal with a lot of anger, and the shop has helped them process their emotions.

“When you’re pushing the wood through the machines,” 16-year-old Marquasia says, “Just hearing the noise releases some anger.”

As Marquasia speaks, Harley materializes out of thin air and lays her head in her lap, as if to say everything’s alright.

“It’s like hands-on therapy for me,” Marquasia adds.

The woodshop is chock-full of pieces of student art that will be displayed and up for sale at the Fayetteville Arts Council in downtown Fayetteville.

“[The kids] are selling a lot of these things,” Lopez says. A lot of people think they come to shop, but they’re actually selling it.

All money from items sold goes to the student artist who created them. If you’d like to meet the kids of Falcon Children’s Home, observe their wonderful woodwork and potentially buy something special for your home, and for a good reason, please come on down to the Fayetteville Arts Council, located at 301 Hay Street, May 4 to 20. Thursday, May 4, is the grand opening night, and the kids will be there from 4 to 9 p.m., DeGreef says.

John DeGreef, Carl Sanders and Derek Feely are military veterans. Harley is a rescue animal and belongs to DeGreef.

“For all of us, this is our give-back,” DeGreef says. “We served our country, and we want to continue to give back to our community.”

Falcon Children’s Home is located in Falcon, straight up I-95, a few miles north of Fayetteville. Falcon Children’s Home has “opportunities throughout the year” for people interested in volunteering. If you would like to volunteer, please visit If you would like to donate money to the home, please visit

‘Feminist Insight: Continuing Her Story’ reveals collective voice

16The process of jurying a national art competition most often results in a juror, or jurors, viewing a myriad of images online. While studying each image on a monitor, the juror is able to read the artist’s description of the size, the year the work was created, the medium, as well as a brief explanation of intent.

When I was asked by Ellington White Contemporary Gallery to be the juror for a feminist art competition, I particularly looked forward to seeing works by contemporary female artists whose works related to the exhibition title: Feminist Insight: Continuing Her Story.

The results can be viewed during a visit to the Rosenthal Gallery on the campus of Fayetteville State University. One hundred and ninety-six (196) works were studied to be included in the exhibition while knowing the gallery can accommodate 40 to 50 works of art depending on size and location in the space.

In selecting works for the exhibit, first and foremost, each work must communicate an essence of what the artist is trying to convey in a particular style, using material that emphasizes meaning, and the work is well-crafted. While viewing so many individual artists, an overall theme begins to emerge.

As a result, 46 entries were selected for the exhibition. The majority of works in the exhibit explore or reveal themes still with us since the second wave of feminist art in the late 60s and 70s: body identity, violence against women, a deep-rooted and historical connection to textiles to express meaning, and the recontextualization of everyday objects to create new meaning.

In the process of deciding which works will be a part of the exhibit, many strong works of art are eliminated simply because they will not fit the overall aesthetics of the larger group of works selected. Although it may vary, visitors should unknowingly sense or experience an underlying cohesiveness of a body of work by many different artists when they visit Feminist Insight: Continuing Her Story.
When the actual works selected for the exhibition start to arrive at the gallery, either shipped in boxes or hand delivered by artists driving in from various parts of the region, another layer of the exhibition is revealed. What can look good on a monitor, can be even more powerful or disappointing in actuality. For the most part, over 90% of the works in the exhibit are more powerful than the images on the monitor when you experience their physicality and their presence.

After the exhibit was hung, I had time to experience all the selections as an experience. Although there are beautiful works in the exhibit, I realized the majority of the work expresses a continued sense of unrest or dislocation for women in contemporary culture. This unsettling truth makes sense in today’s third and fourth wave of the feminist movement which questions, reclaims and redefines the notion of self and challenges traditional power structures in the postmodern cultural shift that is taking place.

“I am Creation” by Joyce Morrow Jones took first place in the competition. The 20”x18”x18” mixed media sculpture, made from a clay body, beads, metal wire, and dried grasses, immediately evokes a sense of time and multiculturalism in its relationship to women and their history. For each of us, our experiences, and even knowledge, influences how we respond or bring meaning to a work of art after it has left the artist’s studio.

For me, “I am Creation,” and the material Jones used to create the sculpture immediately related to the earliest Gods — women. Most often known as Earth Goddesses, it was the Greeks who dethroned the woman Goddess from being the most significant and put Zeus at the top of the God hierarchy.

Second place went to Jeanne Ciravolo for work titled “Woman.” An actual dish towel hangs on the gallery wall with threads sewn into the higher section of the surface to create a face. In an irregular amorphic pattern, the strings hang independently of the design off the surface of the worn striped material. On the bottom right section, she has sewn parts of what looks like to be a red plastic mesh bag, the type one might purchase at the store with potatoes or onions in it.

Understanding the traditional hierarchy for what we value in art is a construction perpetuated by the politics of art, whoever is in power, and who has access to education. Ciravolo recontextualizes everyday objects which are very familiar to the role of women throughout history, as well as today, and elevates them to an ‘object of art’ — she has created a new meaning of a dish towel, as a political object for us to interpret. When we compare a dish towel to a sculpture or painting, Ciravolo is in full feminist mode — we are to examine what a work of art is and especially when women were historically restricted from studying art, much less making it.

“Untitled (Stepfamily)” by Rebecca Chappelear, earned third place with her large 30”x40” photograph of a young woman. We cannot see her face since the photograph ends below her head, she wears a tight T-16ashirt. The close-up view blurs the background of a figure sitting, arms crossed in an ordinary room, if anything the environment seems familiar. As we scan the image, we soon discover the subtle hand mark left on her upper arm. It is at that moment we become mesmerized: the familiar becomes unfamiliar, then it reverses, and we experience the unfamiliar becoming familiar. We are caught in a type of circular looking which leads to the circle of violence against women that was relevant in the second and third phases of the feminist movement.

So many exceptional works in the exhibit, visitors will have their own opinion about which artists should have earned awards. But a juror also has to make choices. Honorable mentions went to the following artists:

“Emergent,” by Beverly Henderson, is a life-size portrait in clay and stone; “Diabla Leon” is a large relief print by Linda Behar; and “Somniferous Bliss” by Johanna Hoge is an 11”x14” ink drawing with embroidery.

I invite visitors to the Rosenthal Gallery to experience the depth of the collective voice in Feminist Insight: Continuing Her Story. The exhibit will be up until April 22 for visitors to discover the many ways in which the artists are expressing diverse views about power, gender, self, inclusivity, and intersectionality.

Poetry community growing in Fayetteville

Poetry offers a unique way to express emotions, ideas and experiences through language. It can explore complex themes and ideas in a concise and powerful way while inspiring readers in profound ways. Poetry also has the ability to connect people across cultures and time periods, offering a window into different perspectives and ways of seeing the world.

April is National Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by exploring the rich poetry scene in your local community? Local poetry can offer a unique perspective on the people, history and culture of your area. Fayetteville has a thriving poetry community with several open mics a month and poetry events happening downtown.

The Poetry Community

14aLeJuane “El’Ja” Bowens has been a part of the local arts community since 2007, shortly after leaving the Army. Bowens tells Up & Coming Weekly that he remembers when the poetry community got so huge, there used to be 13 open mics in one week. However, he says that now is a moment of transition due to a resurgence following the shutdowns of 2020.

“Now we’re at a point where there is a resurgence of open mics and that’s because of what happened during the pandemic when a lot of open mics went away and then they came back. But it brought in a lot of new energy because a lot of people started building upon that,” Bowens said.

Bowens is the founder and CEO of Poetry-N-Motion, a local company that specializes in writing workshops, mentoring and event hosting/planning. Their mission is to serve as a change agent to provide an alternative for individuals who are faced with challenging situations where a different outlet can be utilized to decrease and/or diffuse emotional distress. Their target audiences are youth, veterans, community leaders and aspiring artists.

“[The arts are] very important not only for that creative outlet, but most people also look at that as a way of healing and coping with trauma. Because one of my mentors told me, ‘If no one will listen to you, the page will or the art will.’ So when you have that as an outlet to help with so many things, it makes it very important as to why we need [the] arts, not just in this community, but also in every community that we can make that space possible.”

Last month, Bowens published a new book, “Before: A Collection of Poems,” which is semi-autobiographical. The topics range from life, heartbreak, love, joy, pain and a variety of emotions you can go through as a person.

Each poem starts with the word “Before” and then is expanded on in the poem itself. In the first month of its release, he sold over 400 copies.

“I’m very excited that the book has done so, so well,” Bowens said.

Bowens says the community plays a huge role and it’s important for all artists to support one another, especially in our own community.

“Some of the local players or local artists here in the city go on to do big and better things. There’s phenomenal writers that started here in Fayetteville that are now published authors or motivational speakers and just going out there doing and hosting a lot of other events, not only in Fayetteville but outside of the city or the state. I think it’s very important for a community to get behind it because these artists are the future of what happens within any industry form. And it becomes disheartening when we don’t get the community support because we do so much to represent our community,” Bowens said.

“So it’s very important for us to get behind the artists in the community and the poets, while we can support everything they're doing, because everybody still finds it hard to believe that we have a poetry scene here in the city of Fayetteville, North Carolina when it’s been here for going on 24 years.”

Upcoming Poetry Events

TAP on Thursday

Winterbloom Tea, in collaboration with Poetry-N-Motion, are bringing an open mic, free to everyone. This Tea And Performance happens every third Thursday of the month. If you are a poet, comic, songwriter, musician, they encourage you to come out for this awesome event. The next event will take place on May 18 at 7 p.m.
Winterbloom Tea is located at 238 Hay Street. For more information call 910-491-3526.

14cArts in Motion Trolley

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Cool Spring Downtown District invited North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green to Downtown Fayetteville to take part in Arts in Motion on Friday, April 28 at 7 p.m. on their District Trolley.
Green is the ninth Poet Laureate of North Carolina. She is the first African American and third woman to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate and reappointed in 2021 for a second term by Governor Roy Cooper. She is also a 2019 Academy of American Poet Laureate Fellow and has been recognized on the Forbes Magazine 50 Over 50 Lifestyle List for 2022.

“We're excited to have Jackie Shelton Green for the poetry trolley, and we think it's going to be an amazing event. It's probably a once in a lifetime event to actually be able to sit with our North Carolina poet laureate and be able to pick her brain and just understand the wisdom that she has and how she got to this place and how to become better,” Lauren Falls, Director of Marketing and Events for Cool Spring Downtown District, told Up & Coming Weekly.

The trolley will pick people up at the Gaston Taproom located at 421 Chicago Drive. Tickets are $30 and can be bought at

14bArt Meets Life

Art Meets Life is a show where not only will you get to see art in motion, but also get to know more about the artists that perform as well.
This show, which will be featuring the Detour Slam, will take place at The Sweet Palette on May 5. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The Sweet Palette is located at 101 Person Street. For information call 910-489-7342.
Fighting Fathers

This special series will consist of three performances featuring Southern spoken word artists whose work explores the intersections of military service, fatherhood, and life as Black men in the American South. The Fighting Fathers will give voice to an intersection of our local community that is often overlooked.

The accompanying free workshops will teach attendees how to use the art of spoken word poetry to tell their own story and engage in a creative experience that gives them a deeper understanding of their own emotional journey. The third and last session will feature Bowens. The last two featured Boris “Bluz” Rogers and Neil Ray Donnell. The performance will take place at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre on May 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Cape Fear Regional Theatre is located at 1209 Hay Street. For information call 910-323-4234.

By engaging with local poetry, you not only support your community's arts scene but also gain a deeper appreciation for the place you call home. So this National Poetry Month, and throughout the year, take some time to explore the poetry in your own backyard.

Editor's note: In the next issue of Up & Coming, read about Fayetteville's own Detour Slam Team, a poetry group competing in the Southern Fried Poetry Competition this year.

Gallery 208 showcases artists who teach

4For more than a decade, Gallery 208 has been providing space to showcase local and regional artists.4b

Earlier this month, we opened The Visual Conversation: Artists Who Teach, an exhibit allowing us to highlight local artists who also teach their craft. This exhibit of 24 prints is the result of a group of public-school art teachers who attended a workshop using non-toxic printmaking techniques.

The workshop was sponsored by a grant from the Fayetteville and Cumberland County Arts Council and reflects the artists’ exploration into expanding their regular ways of working. The artists include: Chantel Dorisme, Alfie Frederick, Kyle Harding, Beverly Henderson, Rick Kenner, Soni Martin, Tiara Siner, Manuela Smith, Adrian Solomon and Angela Williams.

To learn more about the workshop and the exhibit, read the article at The exhibit is free and open to the public through May 30. Gallery 208 is located at 208 Rowan St. and open Monday — Thursday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information call 910-484-6200.

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